Brain teasers to train your lateral thinking

To help your brain approach issues from fresh directions, we have prepared some brain teasers to train your lateral thinking skills

Some problems can only be solved by redefining the context or thinking out of the box. If Thomas Edison did not think, “what if there could be light at night…”, we will still have to go to bed at 7pm. To help your brain approach issues from fresh directions, we have prepared some brain teasers to train your lateral thinking skills. They will surely frustrate and entertain, and will give your mind a boost in the process. So here you go, 4 of the most interesting lateral thinking puzzles that you will ever encounter online, since the dawn of time.

1. The man who lives on the 20th floor

A man who lives on the 20th floor takes the lift down to the first floor every morning and goes to work. When he comes back, if there are other people in the elevator or if it is a rainy day, he goes to his floor directly. Otherwise, he goes to the 17th floor and walks up 3 floors to his apartment.

Hint: Is this guy normal?

Answer: The man is extremely short. He cannot reach the 20th floor button. When it is raining, he has an umbrella to reach the button. When there are other people with him, he can ask other people to help him press.

2. Light bulbs and switches

A windowless room contains three identical light bulbs, each connected to one of three switches outside of the room. You are outside the room, and the door is closed. All the light bulbs are switched off. You have only one opportunity to flip any of the external switch. After this, you can go into the room and look at the light bulbs, but you cannot touch the switches again. How can you tell which switch goes to which light?

Hint: Is there any way to know which bulb belongs to which switch other than seeing?

Answer: Turn on switch 1 for quite a while. After that, switch it off and switch on switch 2. Then walk into the room. The bulb that is on corresponds to switch 2. The light bulb that is warm but turned off corresponds to switch 1. The light bulb that is turned off and cold to the touch corresponds to the last switch.

3. Burning ropes

So the next time you are stuck on a problem, do not tell yourself, “GG”. Instead, ask yourself, “what if…?”

You need to measure 45 mins. But you do not have anything to measure time other than a few ropes. Each takes exactly 1 hour to burn. However, do note that these ropes have inconsistent composition and density so they do not burn evenly. For example, if a rope has burned half its length, that does not necessarily mean that it has burned for half an hour. How then do you measure precisely 45 mins?

Hint: Is there any way for you to measure 30 mins?

Answer: Take two ropes. Simultaneously light both ends of rope A and one end of rope B on fire. When rope A is completely burnt, 30 minutes have elapsed and rope B has 30 minutes’ worth of rope left to burn. Light the other end of rope B on fire at this time. Rope B will finish burning in another 15 minutes.

4. Bottleneck

You put a coin in an empty bottle and insert a cork in the bottle’s opening. How can you remove the coin without taking out the cork or breaking the bottle?

Hint: Is out the only way to go?

Answer: Push the cork into the bottle, then you can take the coin out.

In the above instances, you might have asked yourself the question “what if” in the process of solving the puzzle. That is the question that has given mankind artificial light, propelled mankind into space, and continue to expand the lifespan of humans. So the next time you are stuck on a problem, do not tell yourself, “GG”. Instead, ask yourself, “what if…?”

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